WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration plans to extend the compliance dates for the new Nutrition Facts Panel final rules. Those manufacturers with more than $10 million in annual food sales were expected to comply by July 26, 2018. In a notice posted on the agency’s web site, the F.D.A. said it intends to provide additional time for implementation.
“The framework for the extension will be guided by the desire to give industry more time and decrease costs, balanced with the importance of minimizing the transition period during which consumers will see both the old and the new versions of the label in the marketplace,” the F.D.A. said. “The F.D.A. will provide details of the extension through a Federal Register notice at a later time.”
One scenario has the compliance date being pushed back to 2021 and being implemented at the same time as the mandatory bioengineered food disclosure label. During his confirmation hearing to be commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Scott Gottlieb, Ph.D., appeared to support the idea.
In response to a question by Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, Dr. Gottlieb said, “I’m philosophically in favor of trying to make sure we do these things efficiently not only because it imposes undue costs on the manufacturers if they’re constantly updating their labels, but we also have to keep in mind it does create confusion for consumers if the labels are constantly changing. So, you want to try to consolidate the label changes when you’re making label changes as a matter of public health, so the information is conveyed accurately and efficiently to the consumers.”
The Grocery Manufacturers Association expressed support for the delay.
“F.D.A.’s common-sense decision will reduce consumer confusion and costs,” said Pamela G. Bailey, president and chief executive officer of the G.M.A. “Food and beverage manufacturers are committed to giving consumers the information and tools they need to make informed choices, such as by updating the Nutrition Facts Panel. But the fast-approaching compliance deadline was virtually impossible to meet without the needed final guidance documents from F.D.A. F.D.A.’s extension is both reasonable and practical.”
Jim O’Hara, director of health promotion policy with the consumer group the Centers for Science in the Public Interest, said the delay will end up denying consumers “critical information they need to make healthy food choices in a timely manner and will throw the food industry into disarray.”
He added that many companies recognize consumers want the information and already are working to implement the updated label.
One such company is Kind Snacks, New York.
“Kind believes it’s important to provide consumers with the information they need make the most informed food choices,” said Justin Mervis, senior vice-president and general counsel. “That is why last year we began updating our labels with the new Nutrition Facts panel and also published the added sugar content for all Kind snacks on our web site. We anticipate completing our label updates by spring 2018 despite any delays to the compliance date for the Nutrition Facts label final rules.”